Yesterday, I spent a few good minutes helping my daughter make V-Day cards for every single kid in her class. We did not buy some half-assed robot cards from the dollar store this year either. Not because we’re too good for the dollar store, but because I was too lazy to work in a dollar store trip and I happened to have a few dozen doilies and the very Pinteresting ability to carve a heart stamp out of a rotting apple. Boom. Tonight, she panicked because her perfect homemade Valentine’s don’t have clever sayings on them so we wasted another half hour writing “I choo-choo-choose you” on cards that had no hint of train related imagery. This is how I roll.
But it brought back memories of those halcyon days of yore when social status could be swiftly and irrevocably determined by the number of letters in your homemade valentine mailbox. Those were terrifying and bitter days for some (Whiskey) and glorious for others (MiLK). (Nowadays either everybody gets one or nobody does; how are you supposed to make other kids feel like crap?)
On one special Valentine’s Day Mom decided, on a whim, to make it so much worse.
Whiskey was in fifth grade. I was in third. We only spent one year at that school in Palo Alto, but SO MUCH happened there that we had to move to San Jose by the end of it.
One super disturbing thing that happened, was that a lonely little girl in Whiskey’s class developed a crush on him. Because my brother, being a boy and more interested in fire than girls, would have nothing to do with her, she befriended me. This is already pretty advanced stalking for a 5th grader; this usually is college level crazy. It looked little weird that a 5th grader was hanging out with a 3rd grader, but I enjoyed the additional protection from bullies etc.
Thanks no doubt to inorganic dairy products and BPA, this particular little girl was also developing a little quicker than everyone else in her class, and that was probably making her life pretty freaking miserable. Add in a funny uncle and she was already pretty twitchy.
Preparing my own She-Ra valentine’s cards for the six people I’d deemed worthy, I may have mentioned to my mom that Deanna had a crush on Whiskey. The next day, Whiskey came home with an acrylic heart necklace which was promptly abandoned.
“Who’s this from?” Mom asked coyly.
“Nobody,” Whiskey said.
Mom, with ever the sharp eye for a wounded animal and zero sympathy for her own children, came up with a brilliant idea. She was going to drive home a point about kindness and empathy while, simultaneously, creating a shiny, beautiful memory for a little girl lost. I’m guessing there may have been some displacement going on. This could also be why mom has a little history of picking up “Cling-Ons” herself.
Mom promptly marched us back down the concrete stairs and strapped us into the Honda Prelude for a quick trip to the Gas ‘n Go for the last heart-shaped box of chocolates. Whiskey pleaded with her to have mercy but there was no breaking through. I remember sitting in the car with mom the next morning, watching a pale and cringing Whiskey personally deliver that heart-shaped valentine to Deanna. Mom’s face glowed with triumph. She was HELPING! Little hearts were popping over her head.
In reality, Deanna needed therapy more than she needed chocolate. Mom wasn’t so much helping as she was setting Whiskey up with a 5th grade Glenn Close. Deanna was unshakeable after that. She followed us home. Literally. She was waiting when we left for school in the morning, so we could walk to the bus stop together. She insisted on swimming in our apartment pool. In a bikini. In March, and it wasn’t heated. She would sit next to me on the bus, a giant compared to me, and if my brother so much as glanced back at us she would flash him. He was terrified of her.
Actually, now that I think about it, Deanna may have been the reason we had to move the next year, that or Whiskey constantly getting in trouble at school with his Eddie Haskell friend Tim. Or maybe it was that our apartment was haunted, but I’m rambling.
I like to think mom was right about giving Deanna one beautiful memory in what was clearly a pretty screwed up life. I also like to think she eventually got that therapy and didn’t end up cooking anyone’s pet rabbit. Whiskey just hopes she doesn’t read this and figure out what city he lives in.
Helping can be a dangerous business, in the matters of the heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day. We choo-choo-choose you.